Sleep apnea doesn’t just effect your quality of sleep and cause you to snore a bit more than usual; it can also be quite dangerous to your health if left untreated. For moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea—the most common type—CPAP machines (or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure devices) are usually considered the most effective treatment.
For central sleep apnea, other breathing machines like the BPAP (Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure) and ASV (Adaptive Servo-ventilation), can provide better relief. However, the large majority of those suffering from sleep apnea are dealing with the obstructive type, so this article will focus on the CPAP machine as a treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
What is the Sleep Apnea CPAP Machine?
Simply put, the CPAP machine blows air into your nose via a face mask, keeping your airway open and unobstructed. The mask is connected to a flexible tube that transports the air from the machine, which is about the size of a tissue box. The air pressure is only slightly greater than the surrounding air, just enough to keep your upper airway open. There are three types of face masks available: one covers your nose and mouth, one only covers your nose, and one has prongs that fit into your nose. The mask that only covers your nose is the most commonly used.
Unfortunately, sleep apnea breathing machines are not curative. They must be used every night to effectively treat sleep apnea. Even one night without the CPAP machine will effect your quality of sleep and put you at risk for the more severe side effects of sleep apnea.
Sometimes, an oxygen machine for sleep apnea is used as a supplement to the CPAP device, but this is rare for obstructive sleep apnea. When it is used, it is always used as an adjunct to the CPAP machine.
Why Should I Use a CPAP Machine for Sleep Apnea?
The CPAP device is the most consistently effective treatment for clinically significant sleep apnea, and it is the most studied form of treatment. Studies have shown that the machine improves the quality of sleep and decreases daytime sleepiness in patients using the machine for treatment. It improves mood and ability to function properly in patients with debilitating sleep apnea. Studies also have shown that the machine lowers the user’s blood pressure during both the day and night. Because the machine eliminates snoring caused by sleep apnea, your partner will enjoy better quality sleep as well!
Moreover, the CPAP machine is the most successful treatment for sleep apnea that doesn’t involve the invasiveness, cost, and complexities of surgery. It is safe and can be used by any patient, even children.
When Do I Need a CPAP Machine and How Do I Get One?
Before you purchase a CPAP machine and start using it for treatment, you will need to be properly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and undergo a sleep study. Not only is a prescription necessary, you also will avoid wasting money or time on the machine if sleep apnea is not the issue.
If you think you have some symptoms of sleep apnea, you should go to your primary care doctor who will give you a physical examination, review your medical history, and rule out other disorders. If your doctor concludes that it is likely you do have sleep apnea, he or she will likely refer you to a sleep specialist or sleep disorders center that is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Sciences.
At the sleep center, the patient will undergo polysomnography, the technical term for the sleep study that records brain waves, breathing, and other sleep-related activity. For the study, the patient will arrive two hours before “bedtime” without having made any change in daily habits. The sleep specialists will then track instances of apnea and hypoapnea in addition to other brain, respiratory, and heart monitoring. After the official diagnosis of sleep apnea is made and the severity determined, the patient must come back another night to have the CPAP treatment started. At this time, the CPAP titration (air pressure level) will be decided. Sometimes this process can be consolidated into one night for convenience and cost effectiveness.
Once your CPAP titration has been prescribed, you can go ahead and purchase a CPAP machine. CPAP machines are available from a wide variety of medical equipment dealers. If your insurance provider requires that you use a contracted dealer for medical equipment, you can ask your insurance provider for a list of preferred dealers and contact them directly. Otherwise, you are free to use any dealer you choose. Dealers can be found easily and in abundance through online searches.
Dealers sell medical equipment from a variety of companies that manufacture CPAP machines. ResMed sleep apnea machines are known for their comfort and minimal intrusiveness.
What are sleep apnea machine side effects?
Usually, CPAP treatment is effective with minimal or no side effects. When side effects do occur, they include
- Dry nose and sore throat
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Irritation of the eyes and skin (on face)
- Abdominal bloating
- Nightmares and excessive dreaming
- Leaks around the mask because it does not fit properly
In many cases, you can eliminate or reduce these side effects by adjusting your CPAP pressure level, making sure your equipment fits properly, or using a humidifier or corticosteroid nasal spray to decrease nasal irritation and drainage.
The most common complaint about sleep apnea CPAP machines is that they are uncomfortable and noisy. This leads to patients not using the machine on a nightly basis. If you have either of these problems, talk to your doctor, a sleep specialist, or an expert at your CPAP dealer to figure out how to manage the issue.
Some patients simply find the machine embarrassing and complain that it discourages intimacy with their sleeping partner. In this case, you should try talking to your partner about this concern. And remember, you only have to use the machine while you are actually sleeping!
For most people, the benefits of a CPAP machine for sleep apnea greatly outweigh the disadvantages.